In a move that might further strengthen Indo-US defence ties, India has reportedly approved the much-delayed deal to buy 22 Apache attack and 15 Chinook helicopters from the US.
The Indian Finance Ministry has given green signals to the deal, which has been pending approval for the last three years. The new development comes ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to the US where he will be addressing the United Nations General Assembly in New York and also meet US President Barack Obama.
The deal will be taken up by the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) in its meeting on Tuesday and is expected to be cleared, as the Defence Ministry had cleared the proposal back in April 2015.
"We have conveyed our no objections to the deal being considered by the CCS," Hindustan Times quoted a senior Finance Ministry official.
The deal has survived 13 price extensions from US defence major, Boeing, that manufactures the copters. Though the deal will cost India $3.1 billion, it will be worth every penny since India still uses vintage Soviet Union/Russian attack and heavy-lift choppers.
The 22 Apache AH 64D Longbow helicopters are the world's most advanced multi-role combat helicopters, featuring all-weather and night fighting features, ability to track up to 128 targets in less than a minute and engage with 16, stealth characteristics, glass cockpit, advanced sensors and beyond visual range missiles. India will also be acquiring Hellfire missiles and around 8,000 rockets.
Apache AH 64D Longbow was chosen after Indian armed forces pitted it against Russia's Mi-28 following the withdrawal of Eurocopter's Tiger and AgustaWestland's A129 Mangusta from the competition.
The 15 CH-47F Chinook heavy-lift copters with tandem rotors will add an edge to Indian air-lift capabilities. The Chinook choppers are multi-role, with its primary mission being transport of troops, artillery, equipment, and fuel.
The Indian Air Force will be greatly benefited by its acquisition as they will also be used for inserting troops in high altitude areas. They can also carry M777 howitzers via slings. The Chinooks were pitted against Russian Mi-26. The deal will also have the option of purchasing another six.
Meanwhile, IHS Jane's has reported about the fast-tracking of the delayed acquisition of 145 BAE Systems M777 155 mm/39 calibre lightweight howitzers for the Indian Army. The deal is being done through the Foreign Military Sales (FMS) route and both the countries are working together drafting the letter of acceptance (LoA), which is being worked out by consultations between the Defence Ministry and the Pentagon.
Delivery schedules, guarantees, after-sales technical service, materiel, and spares support are all included in the LoA. The deal will be worth $700 million.
The howitzers can be carried via a sling on the Chinook choppers.